Chairmen offer glimpse into plans to replace healthcare reform

The chairmen, previewing a top priority for this Congress, will put an emphasis on medical liability reform as a way to reduce healthcare costs. Some pointed to an October 2009 Congressional Budget Office analysis that said medical liability reform would cut $54 billion from the federal deficit over 10 years.

"There's a big chunk right there," Kline said.

Instead of passing a comprehensive bill to replace the reform law, the chairmen said they were leaning toward piecemeal bills. 

“We’ve always felt that healthcare reform ought to be a step-by-step approach,” said Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). “That was our legislation from last Congress, so we don’t expect to solve every problem under the sun in healthcare with one bill.”

The chairmen rejected criticism from Democrats that the GOP is too focused on fighting a healthcare battle settled in the last Congress while ignoring jobs and the economy. Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said his committee would take a broad focus on healthcare “as part of a plan to improve America’s economy.”

“It’s not going to be just healthcare,” Upton said.

While the Obama administration says the healthcare reform law will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, the chairmen declined to say how many people they will cover with their replacement efforts.

"We're very resistant to notion of putting a number out there," Kline said. "What we saw, frankly, in Obamacare was this desire to put a very large number of more Americans insured and what it led to ... was adding 15 million to Medicaid."